Derry assistant manager Brian McGuckin refuses to buy into the belief that Mayo are a fading power this season and is looking forward to pitting his wits against one of the top sides in the country this Saturday in Castlebar (5pm).
The critics have been lining up to have a go at Shane Walsh’s team after a second successive Connacht Championship defeat to Galway three weeks ago but McGuckin - whose team knows a thing or two about being written off - says Derry are under no illusions about the task they face this weekend.
“This is a game for the players to relish,” explained McGuckin, “Whenever the draw came out, we were all very much looking forward to this game but any of the four teams we could have got would have brought their own challenges.
“Mayo are one of the very top teams and it will be good to pit our wits against a team as established as they are but we feel we are up to it.
“Obviously we have access to their Championship games to date and will be looking closely at those but I would expect there to be a few changes to their line-up from the Connacht semi-final.
“We have a fair idea of what to expect because they are all very well known individually and they’ve had a couple of very good years in that they have had very long runs in the Championship.
“They’re a very experienced set-up and, yes, they’ve had their heartaches as well but certainly they are very experienced and are a team that are at the peak of their powers at present.
“They will be disappointed with their Connacht semi-final route, no doubt about that, but they took the same route last year and went a very long way to an All Ireland final.
“A lot of people have talked about them struggling but I don’t necessarily buy into that though we won’t be putting them on a pedestal either.”
Derry captain Enda Lynn and club mate Niall Loughlin are both fit for selection with McGuckin expecting a full strength panel though it was confirmed earlier in the week that Magherafelt keeper Conor McLarnon had left the panel meaning the Oak Leafers will travel down this evening (Friday) with only Ben McKinless as a recognised keeper.
Mayo have been boosted by the news that ‘Footballer of the Year’ Lee Keegan could play some part despite picking up a leg injury in a club match two weeks ago.
Westport player Keegan was injured after a heavy collision with Charlestown’s Jack Reilly and has been receiving treatment for the muscle injury since but has responded well and should feature in his 36th consecutive championship game for this county.
Mayo also have injury concerns over defenders Ger Cafferkey and Chris Barrett while Keith Higgins will miss game due to suspension.
Barry Moran and Conor O’Shea, who were injured for the Galway game, both took part in training last week and should be available.
“Mayo have had three weeks to prepare for us,” added McGuckin, “They have had time to have their Connacht Championship hangover as such and to get over it.
“We are fortunate in that we have a game behind us and a win behind us, so, we will be going into the game with a degree of confidence.”